"It's just been a blessing to be here," Kennedy said. "To line something like this up, only God can do."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he believes Kennedy can help the Yankees as a long reliever and that he has not been promoted just as a reward.
Girardi might know -- he was behind the plate on Sept. 2, 1996, at the Oakland Coliseum, when David Cone returned from an aneurysm and fired seven no-hit innings before running into a pitch count restriction.
If Kennedy has even a fraction of that success in 2009, the Yankees will be elated.
"It's scary. You worry more about their life than anything," Girardi said. "Obviously once they diagnose it, they take care of it pretty quickly. You realize how sensitive and precious things can be."
Kennedy's trials began after his first start in April for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, when he began noticing coldness in his pitching hand. Initially diagnosed as a vasospasm, an MRI examination in May revealed an aneurysm.
The Yankees enlisted Kennedy into the care of Dr. George Todd, who treated Cone's aneurysm in 1996 and oversaw his successful big league return. Though Kennedy admitted some fear after the initial diagnosis, hearing from both Dr. Todd and Cone -- now a broadcaster for the club's YES Network -- eased his mental state.
"When it happened, they assured me it wasn't a career-threatening thing," Kennedy said. "It was just a matter of time to get back. I'd rather have this than a shoulder problem or Tommy John [elbow ligament replacement surgery]."
Kennedy underwent surgery on May 12 to remove the aneurysm and had another procedure in August, when a vein was sewed into an artery. Kennedy wasn't sure how much pitching he would be able to do at all, and certainly had no idea that he would be putting on a Yankees uniform before season's end.
"The whole process was really taken real slow with me," Kennedy said. "It's not like there's a real protocol for it. What really eased my mind was my last appointment with Dr. Todd, when he told me that he didn't have many doubts."
And he progressed quickly, parachuting in with Class A Tampa on Sept. 12 and starting against Charlotte in Game 1 of the Florida State League championships. Kennedy allowed a hit in two scoreless innings that day, admitting feeling "amped up" as he struck out one, trying to get a feel on his off-speed pitches but feeling no tingling or numbness.
He made the jump to Triple-A five days later, hurling three innings of perfect ball for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Durham in the Governor's Cup finals on Wednesday, striking out six of the nine batters he faced. This start felt more back to normal, he said.
Kennedy thought his next uniform would be in the Arizona Fall League, where he is still scheduled to report, but senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman told Kennedy on Friday that he should pack for Seattle -- a detour he called "crazy" and said he couldn't even dream of.
"He's been through a lot this last year with the aneurysm," Girardi said. "That's scary for any pitcher. It's been a long road back. It's important that we try to continue and stretch him out."
In 13 Major League appearances, Kennedy has not yet fulfilled expectations, compiling a career record of 1-4 with a 6.14 ERA while having each of the past two seasons interrupted by injury.
But Girardi said that the Yankees understand Kennedy is still young, and with his talent, they continue to believe he will eventually be able to fill a larger role.
"I'm glad that he's here," Girardi said. "He's always been a guy that the organization has thought highly of. He had setbacks last year and this year physically, but he feels good now and we believe he can help us."